She combs her hair as that of the dead is combed:
she wears the blue shard under her shift.
She wears the shard of world upon a string.
She knows the words, but still she only smiles.
She stirs her smile into the cup of wine:
you must drink it to be in the world.
You are the image that the shard shows her
when she bends over life in contemplation.
Sie kammt ihr Haar (She combs her hair) musicata da Erhard Karkoschka
The poem depicts a woman – whom Karkoschka understands as Celan’s murdered mother19–standing outside the world. She is associated with the dead, yet acting as if she were living. She combs her own hair, as one would comb that of the dead. In this context, her shift or gown (‘ Hemd’) should perhaps be understood as a shroud (‘ Sterbehemd’), especially since the final stanza presents her as separate from life, over which she bends, and since the ‘Scherben’ might be read as a play on the verb ‘sterben’, which means ‘to die’. Underneath the shroud, she wears a blue shard of the world. She thus exists beside life and after the world, from whence her silent smile, wine and contemplation infuse the poem with a tranquil, dreamlike atmosphere.
At the same time, however, the ‘you’ of the poem seems to be in the world rather than transcend it in the manner of ‘Schlaflied’ and, conversely, the woman is not forgetting about life, but contemplating it, seeing the image of the ‘you’ in the shard. Dream and reality, associated with the realm of the dead and living respectively, seem to coexist and mirror each other in this poem. […]
da Still Songs: music in and around the poetry of Paul Celan –
ph. Sofie Sund